TOKYO, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Japanese stocks fell on Tuesday, taking the benchmark Nikkei index into negative territory for the year to date, after soft trade data out of China added to concerns over the economic health of one of Japan’s main trading partners.
Defensive shares such as drugmakers and food companies were battered, in a sharp reversal of their spectacular outperfomance earlier this year.
The Nikkei share average lost 2.4 percent to close at 17,427.08, tipping it into negative territory for the year to date. It has fallen 15.9 percent in the last 30 days.
The broader Topix fell 2 percent to 1,416.71, weighed down heavily by its pharmaceutical sub-index which lost 5.2 percent. Takeda Pharmaceutical fell 3.6 percent and Astellas Pharma shares tumbled 4.7 percent.
The Topix foods sub-index lost 3.5 percent as defensive shares fell, with Kikkoman shedding 8.1 percent.
Data showed Japan’s economy shrank less than expected in the April-June quarter but economists were quick to point out that the upward revision was caused by rise in inventories and boded ill for the outlook for July-September.
Stoking concerns further, Japan’s service sector sentiment index fell to 49.3 in August, hitting the lowest level since January.
In contrast, steel companies, among the worst performers in recent weeks due to concerns about China, gained 2 percent.
Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal shares gained 3.1 percent while JFE Holdings added 1.9 percent and Kobe Steel added 3.3 percent.
Market participants said buyers sought steel shares with low price-to-book ratios.
The JPX-Nikkei Index 400 fell by 2.1 percent to 17,702.69. (Additional reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)